TROY, N.Y. - The U.S. National Under-18 Team erased three separate deficits and used a four-goal third period to come from behind and top the RPI Engineers by a 7-4 final Friday evening at Houston Field House in the Capital Region.
Will Smith (Lexington, Mass.) recorded two goals and two assists and Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill.) added two scores and a helper to lead the U18s. The four points extended Smith's NTDP-record point streak to 11 straight games to start a season.
The Engineers wasted no time getting on the scoreboard on home ice, netting the game's first goal just 17 seconds into regulation. After an offensive-zone draw was won, Mason Klee took a shot from the right point and Brendan Budy got a stick on it in front and deflected it past Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich.) for a 1-0 lead.
The U.S. responded quickly with a power-play marker from Smith just over four minutes later. After Smith drew a penalty on the previous rush, he took a pass from Will Vote (Arlington, Mass.) between the circles and rifled a shot on net. Engineers goalie Jack Watson got some of it, but not all as the rubber trickled between his legs for Smith's seventh goal of the season and a 1-1 tie.
RPI responded to take its second lead of the night off a slapper from the left point from the stick of Jack Agnew and took a 2-1 advantage into the first break.
Perreault evened the score again early in the middle frame with his eighth tally of the season. The U18s turned defense into offense quickly as Smith took possession in the neutral zone and led a 2-on-2 break. He fed Perreault along the left wing where he roofed a quick shot short side over the blocker of Watson for his second point of the evening.
The Under-18 Team had a golden opportunity to take a lead when Vote was sprung behind the defense but his shot rang off the right post and out near the midway mark of the game. The Engineers made it hurt as TJ Walsh took a shot from the left circle that got over the shoulder of Augustine just 30 seconds later to push the score to 3-2.
Team USA evened the score once more courtesy of Perreault's second of the night in the final minute of the second. Smith had a great individual effort as he won a puck battle along the right-wing boards, dangled between two Engineers defenders and found his linemate alone in the slot. Perreault collected and netted in the top corner for the U18s' second man-up goal of the evening and 3-3 tie after 40 minutes.
The U.S. took its first lead of the night at 6:02 of the final period. Aram Minnetian (Woodcliff Lake, N.J.) took control off an Engineers turnover and threaded the needle with a lead pass to Alex Weiermair (Los Angeles, Calif.). The Denver commit got in alone and fired over the glove of Brett Miller for his second score of the season and a Team USA lead.
Minnetian doubled the U18 lead with a point shot three and a half minutes later. Team USA worked hard in the offensive zone to retain possession and Oliver Moore (Mounds View, Minn.) kicked it out to Danny Nelson (Maple Grove, Minn.) along the right wing. He found Minnetian up top, who put his shot off the shoulder of Agnew and in for a 5-3 lead.
Walsh connected again with 8:19 in regulation to cut the deficit back to one score. He tapped in a back-door feed from Agnew on a 4-on-3 power play to make it a 5-4 contest.
Nelson cleaned up a goal-mouth scramble with 3:31 to play to give him a multi-point effort on the night and his second score of the campaign. Moore and Kai Janiviriya (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.) collected helpers on the 6-4 score.
Smith iced the game with a late empty-netter for the 7-4 final.
Augustine went the distance as he extended his perfect record on the season to 6-0-0. He finished the night with 35 saves.
The U18s are off tomorrow before finishing their weekend set Sunday afternoon in West Point, N.Y., to take on Army. It will mark the first ever matchup between the two sides and puck drop is slated for 2:00 p.m. from Tate Rink. Watch the game live on FloHockey.tv.